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World Cup: Top 5 Golden Glove winners

Manuel Neuer
Manuel Neuer

It is sometimes easy to overlook the importance of the goalkeeper. While midfielders and strikers are the ones who generally get the glory of scoring goals, spare a thought for the men in between the sticks, whose exploits are often pushed, at least partly, into the shade by their outfield peers.

And yet so often shot-stoppers have been decisive in determining the fortunes of their side, with the fingertips here or a boot there the difference between success and failure.

FIFA has set to recognise this importance at the World Cup by introducing an award for the outstanding goalkeeper of the tournament. This was first brought in for the USA ‘94 competition, under the guise of the Yashin Award, named after the great USSR goalkeeper Lev Yashin, who is often considered one of the best keepers in history.

Since then, it has morphed into the Golden Glove Award and stands along with the Golden Ball and Golden Boot as one of the major individual prizes given out at the finals.

Only once since it’s inception has it been granted to a player who did not make the final of the tournament – Belgium’s Michel Preud’homme in 1994 – while four of the six previous winners have also gone on to lift the World Cup trophy itself.

Here are the top five Golden Gloves winners:

Manuel Neuer (Germany, 2014)

Germany is the only country to boast two Golden Glove winners, with Manuel Neuer claiming the honours at Brazil 2014, which was claimed by his country thanks to a 1-0 win over Argentina in the final.

Neuer, meanwhile, was to the fore as he followed in the tradition of fine Bayern Munich goalkeepers such as Sepp Maier and Oliver Khan impressing on the world stage for the national team.

Over the course of the tournament, he conceded four goals and kept three cleansheets, which helped cement his place as one of the best keepers in the game.

He certainly benefitted from the strength of the defensive line in front of him, although when he was left exposed by the high press that the Germans chose to employ, he inevitably swept behind them in imperious manner. This was best displayed in the last-16 match against Algeria, in which the Germans squeezed through 2-1 against a competitive Algeria side.

In the final, his imposing manner was considered to have put off both Gonzalo Higuain and Rodrigo Palacio when they were well placed, with his aura as much as anything else quelling the threat from the Argentines.

If he is to repeat those heroics of four years ago, he will have to overcome an injury that kept him out for the vast majority of Bayern’s season.

Iker Casillas (Spain, 2010)

Netherlands v Spain: 2010 FIFA World Cup Final
Netherlands v Spain: 2010 FIFA World Cup Final

Iker Casillas’ contribution to Spain’s World Cup victory in 2010 is often overlooked, yet the erstwhile Real Madrid goalkeeper was considered to integral to coach Vicente Del Bosque’s plans that he was their captain. Indeed, when he lifted the trophy for La Roja he became just the third shot-stopper ever to do so, following in the footsteps of Italians Gianpiero Combi in 1934 and Dino Zoff in 1982.

Spain’s progress to the final was certainly not serene. They won tight fixtures against Honduras and Chile in the group stage after surprisingly losing their opener to Switzerland, while thereafter it required four 1-0 victories to see them to success.

Indeed, they never won a single fixture in that competition by more than a goal, while four of their five wins were by 1-0 and the other was a 2-1.

If their performance offensively was not spectacular, at the back they were formidable, and much of that was due to the assurance that Casillas gave them.

Moreover, when they flirted with disaster, most notably when they conceded a penalty to Paraguay in the quarter-final, their iconic goalkeeper came up with the goods, making a save from the spot to steer his side through.

In the aftermath of the victory, he caught the headlines further as he kissed sports journalist and girlfriend Sara Carbonero in a live post-match interview.

Gianluigi Buffon (Italy, 2006)

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2006 - Finals - Italy vs. France
Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2006 - Finals - Italy vs. France

Gianluigi Buffon may not yet have won the Champions League title that his storied career deserves, but if he is to retire, at least he has the consolation of knowing that he has been a world champion. And not only that, he played a major role as Italy won in Germany 2006, beating France on penalties in the final.

Buffon did not actually play a great role in the shootout that helped the Azzurri to glory – the penalty that France squandered came off the bar from David Trezeguet – but what had gone before it was impressive.

He posted a string of records in the competition, notably keeping five clean sheets and only conceding in the final from a Zinedine Zidane penalty. The other he allowed was an own goal in the group stage. Included in this remarkable sequence was a 453-minute shutout streak, which is the second longest in World Cup history.

In terms of individual displays, it was the round-of-16 performance against Australia that stood out, as Italy faced a crisis moment against the underdogs. He steadied his team, who eventually progressed and went on to win the whole tournament.

It was a mark of Italy’s defensive strength that center-back Fabio Cannavaro won the 2006 Ballon d’Or, with Buffon the runner-up.

Fabien Barthez (France, 1998)

FUSSBALL: WM FRANCE 98 Paris, 18.06.98
FUSSBALL: WM
FRANCE
98 Paris, 18.06.98

The final of the 1998 World Cup has become synonymous with Zinedine Zidane’s two headed goals in the first half, yet France might not have had their 3-0 victory over Brazil had it not been for goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, who was decisive both on the night and previously in the tournament.

Throughout the competition, the Monaco shot-stopper was at the peak of his powers. He would shut his opponents out on five occasions and conceded only two goals throughout the tournament, once from a Denmark penalty in the group stage and once again in the semi-finals against Croatia.

His performances first really came to the fore in the quarter-finals against Italy, when he helped France win via a penalty shootout, stopping a kick from Demetrio Albertini as Les Bleus won through 4-3.

In the final itself, he made a number of important saves early in the second half as Brazil threatened to respond after Zidane’s first-half double. France were reduced to 10 men as Marcel Desailly was sent off, yet in part thanks to Barthez’s influence, they were able to hold firm and add to their lead in the closing stages.

No Frenchman has played more World Cup finals matches than the eccentric former Manchester United and Marseille goalkeeper, who with 10 shutouts posts the record at finals tournaments along with England’s Peter Shilton.

Oliver Kahn (Germany, 2002)

FUSSBALL: WM 2002 in JAPAN und KOREA, HALBFINALE GER - KOR
FUSSBALL: WM 2002 in JAPAN und KOREA, HALBFINALE GER - KOR

One of only two goalkeepers to have won the Golden Glove without actually winning the competition, Bayern Munich shot-stopper Oliver Kahn was at what was his peak for the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea.

He cut an imposing figure in the Germany goal, ruthlessly decisive and with terrific leadership capabilities. Of course, he was also a very fine shot-stopper too.

Such were his qualities, he was actually voted the tournament’s best player overall prior to the final. He is the only goalkeeper ever to have done so.

Germany’s performance overall in the competition was unremarkable, but the goalkeeper’s prowess allowed them to make their way to the final, having conceded only a single goal throughout the tournament.

In the showpiece, however, he made an uncharacteristic error to allow Ronaldo to score. Midway through the second half, he spilled a routine effort from Rivaldo, allowing the prolific attacker to steam in and open the scoring.

Kahn was playing the match with torn ligaments in a finger, which may have had an impact on his ability to field the initial shot, yet he refused to blame the issue for his error.

His tournament summed up the fortunes of a goalkeeper; he was for so long perfect, yet one lapse of concentration proved fatal to his side. Despite that slip, his performance remains one of the benchmarks for custodians at a finals tournament.

“There is no consolation [...] it was the only mistake I made in seven games and it was brutally punished,” he lamented after the final.

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Edited by Arvind Sriram
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